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US$4.5 trillion circular economy goes mainstream

DAVOS, Switzerland: January 24, 2018. BMW has joined 29 major corporations with collective annual revenues of US$1.3 trillion in supporting a circular economy initiative launched by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

This is the latest attempt by companies to reinvent the way they produce, use and dispose of the materials that make up global trade by moving away from the traditional "take-make-dispose" economic model to one that is regenerative by design.

panalpina circularTo this end Panalpina and its research partner Cardiff University have been awarded a research grant from the EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) to determine the supply chain implications that arise from the circular economy.

"The take-make-dispose supply chains of the past are morphing into the distributed, circular and sustainable supply chains of the future," explained Mike Wilson, Panalpina's global head of Logistics and Manufacturing. "But the transition to the circular economy brings challenges to traditional manufacturing and retail supply chains and the grant has allowed us to intensify our research and help our customers address these challenges."

According to a 2015 study by Accenture, changing from a linear to circular supply chain is worth upwards of US$4.5 trillion to participants. The European Commission wants to encourage EU Member States to adopt a circular economy which it claims will save companies €600 billion, create 580,000 jobs, and reduce carbon emissions by 450 million tonnes a year.

Last year Cranfield University launched the world's first MSc course on the circular economy that fuses expertise in engineering, logistics and environmental sciences with programs in business and finance.

The course draws on the expertise of the circular economy thought-leader the Ellen MacArthur Foundation: "The circular economy is emerging as the new paradigm for a system that can work in the long term. In order to achieve its full potential, it needs solid skills-building programs and the involvement of leading international universities," said founder MacArthur.

In addition to BMW, members of the new WBCSD initiative include Accenture, Arcadis, ArcelorMittal, BASF, BCG, CRH, Dow, DSM, Enel, ExxonMobil, EY, Honda, IFF, KPMG, Michelin, Navigant, Novartis, Philips, PWC, Rabobank, Renault, SABIC, Saint-Gobain, Solvay, Stora Enso, Veolia, Yara and Yokogawa.

WBCSD head Peter Bakker said the group represents a critical mass of private sector support needed to implement the circular economy at a global scale. "We look forward to seeing the companies involved shape the transition to a sustainable future," he added.

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